British teenager found guilty of lying about Cyprus gang-rape
A British teenager has been found guilty of lying about being gang-raped in Cyprus, after the judge said she made the claim because she was "embarrassed" about being filmed having sex.
The woman, 19, said she was attacked by up to 12 Israeli tourists in an Ayia Napa hotel on July 17 before making a retraction statement 10 days later.
She maintains that she was raped but pressured into changing her account by Cypriot police.
The teenager was convicted of a single count of public mischief at a packed Famagusta District Court in Paralimni, on Monday.
"The defendant gave police a false rape claim, while having full knowledge that this was a lie," Judge Michalis Papathanasiou said.
"The reason why she initially gave false statements was because she realised that she was being recorded while she was having sexual intercourse and so she was placed in a difficult position and felt embarrassed.
"She then apologised saying she had made a mistake by filing a false statement."
He said the woman "did not make a good impression, she did not tell the truth, and tried to mislead the court" during her evidence.
"There was no rape, or violence, and police had carried out a thorough investigation making all necessary arrests," the judge added.
The teenager nodded her head slightly as she was found guilty, showing no other emotion until after her sentencing was adjourned until January 7.
She then argued with her lawyers, saying, "I thought you were asking for a fine," after Ritsa Pekri asked the judge to impose a suspended sentence, telling the court she was under strong psychological pressure at the time.
The teenager was a week into a working holiday the summer before she was due to start university when she alleged she was raped by the group of young Israeli men.
All 12 Israelis arrested over the alleged attack returned home after they were released.
The woman spent more than a month in prison before she was granted bail at the end of August and has not been allowed to leave the island.
She is still on bail and could face up to a year in jail and a 1,700 euro (£1,500) fine when she is sentenced.
The teenager was mobbed by photographers and camera operators as she left court with her face covered alongside her mother.
Both were wearing white scarves around their faces depicting lips sewn together – brought by protesters from the Network Against Violence Against Women, who filled the court and demonstrated outside.
The teenager and her mother left the building as defence lawyer, Nicoletta Charalambidou, told reporters they plan to appeal against the verdict.
"The decision of the court is respected," she said.
"However, we respectfully disagree with it. We believe there have been many violations of the procedure and the rights of a fair trial of our client have been violated.
"We are planning to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court... and if justice fails we are planning to take our case to the European Court of Human Rights."
None of the Israelis gave evidence during the trial and the woman's legal team criticised the judge's refusal to consider evidence of the alleged rape.
Her lawyers said the video found on some of the Israelis' mobile phones showed her having consensual sex with one of the group while others try to enter the room as she tells them to leave.
Michael Polak, a lawyer from the Justice Abroad group, which is assisting the teenager, said: "Although the defence team is very disappointed with the decision of the court, having put a lot of effort into the lengthy trial process and after bringing expert evidence before the court, we are not surprised by the result given the frequent refusal during the trial of the judge to consider evidence which supported the fact that the teenager had been raped.
"Shutting down questioning from our Cypriot advocates and the production of evidence into the trial on a handful of occasions the judge stridently stated 'this is not a rape case, I will not consider whether she was raped or not'.
"We have found it incredibly difficult to follow this logic given that an essential element of the offence is for there to be a 'false statement concerning an imaginary offence' and therefore, clearly if the teenager was raped, she cannot be guilty."
Protester Argentoula Ioannou also criticised the verdict, adding: "We are here to show solidarity for the young lady who instead of being treated as a complainant for the rape that she suffered is here accused of public mischief.
"Unfortunately, we strongly believe that the rights of this young lady have been violated."
But Nir Yaslovitzh, a lawyer representing some of the Israelis arrested over the alleged rape, welcomed the verdict.
"I applaud the court's decision to convict the girl," he said.
"I hope the court will find it appropriate to aggravate the punishment imposed on the girl, who refuses to this day to take responsibility for the horrible act she's done against the boys."